Tuesday Night Opry feat. Dierks Bentley, Jesse McReynolds, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, The SteelDrivers, Maggie Rose, Jeannie Seely & Greg BatesCountry
In the Fall of 2010, Dierks Bentley played four shows in four nights in New York City that illustrate just how unique he is among contemporary country music artists. First, Dierks the multi-platinum arena headliner played his hits at the Bowery Ballroom. Then Dierks the bluegrass student and devotee performed with the Del McCoury Band, and after that it was a songwriter’s night with fellow Music Row tunesmiths and a show with Chris Thile’s experimental Punch Brothers.
Probably no other artist on country radio in the past ten years could manage this kind of range and versatility. Especially when one considers the broader record. He’s had eight No. 1 singles and written every one of them. He’s performed at Lollapalooza, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Bonnaroo and the CMA Music Festival, tailoring his sets to each. His instantly recognizable voice and acoustic/electric hybrid sound have propelled him to membership in the Grand Ole Opry and, in 2011, a performance for the President at the White House. All made possible by his devotion to developing all sides of his musicianship.
Dierks has embraced musical diversity in his recording career as well, as his new album Home demonstrates. The project plunges him back into the country mainstream after a successful sojourn in bluegrass and roots music with the acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Up On The Ridge album. Moreover, working with some of Nashville’s most innovative studio musicians, Home finds Dierks singing over some new sonic textures and, for the first time, interpreting a few songs that he didn’t write himself.
“I definitely stepped away from the commercial country world for a little while,” says Dierks, noting that his last such album, Feel That Fire, album came out in early 2009. “That seems like a really long time ago. So this record feels fresh. It doesn’t feel like a continuation of any other project or series of recordings.”
But if there’s newness, there’s also a distinct familiarity about how Dierks and his music are connecting with fans. This sixth album of his Capitol Records Nashville career produced a No. 1 hit even before its release. That album-opening song, “Am I The Only One,” is a rallying cry to the fun-loving Dierks army. And it sets a tone - a good-time song kicking off a good-time record. Fans have already been enjoying tunes like “5-1-5-0” and “Diamonds Make Babies” in shows. The recorded versions will no doubt be spilling out of car windows as the weather warms up in 2012.
Home’s title track gives the mostly light-hearted album a vital, spiritual anchor. The song expresses pride and patriotism without sentimentality or illusions. It unflinchingly speaks of America’s “scars” and her tensions while illuminating those as sources of strength. The writing session took place just four days after the shooting in Tucson, AZ (Dierks’s home state), which took six lives and injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. That tragedy did not inspire the song by any means, but it did cast a shadow and influence Dierks and his co-writers, once some opening lines popped out that seemed to speak to the vitality of being an American in these challenging times.
“It’s really hard to write a patriotic song,” confesses Dierks. “But you want to. It’s something I think about all the time. I love the history of country music and I love the history of our country.” He seems to have pulled it off. The song impressed critics and earned a call from National Public Radio. Dierks was able to tell that audience that the aim was “to be inspiring and hopeful, but also address the realities of what's going on.” Elsewhere on radio, country stations embraced the risky single, despite its departures from any flag-waving formula.
The rest of the project is divided evenly between songs Dierks co-wrote and those he found on an unprecedented song hunt. From the former category we hear “The Woods,” an homage to another side of home, the privacy afforded by those little-known and mysterious backroads and fire circles where friends gather and rites of passage take place. Dierks also co-wrote “Breathe You In,” a pure act of romance and sonic seduction that continues the tone set by the multi-week chartopper “Come A Little Closer” a few years ago. And closing the album, Dierks and Jim Beavers conceived “Thinking Of You,” a connecting, reassuring song that comes honestly from a man who’s away from his family more than he’d like. Daughter Evie makes a brief guest appearance at the end, singing the record’s appropriate final words: “Daddy’s home.”
On the song scouting side, Dierks “reached out to the publishers and let it be known that we were looking for great songs. It didn’t matter where it came from and who wrote it – how big the name or little the name. We were just searching for as many songs to listen to as possible,” he says.
The results are rich. “Diamonds Make Babies” is a country cranker, bristling with electric guitar and a great beat. But the true hook is the lyric, a wry and worldly-wise bit of advice to an eager suitor who thinks he’s ready to get down on one knee and offer the stone. Dierks also throws his vocal power up to “In My Head,” which explores the fine line between love and obsession against a driving, pulsing track. And Dierks reaches back to the influence of one of his favorite musicians – Jamie Hartford – in recording “When You Gonna Come Around.” The slow-dance of a song is a duet with the wonderful Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town and offers some of the most organic textures and honest vocals on the album.
Dierks Bentley’s career in country music could be taught in music business classes because of its rare balance of commercial success and artistic breadth. Most young Nashville newcomers who gravitate to the Station Inn and the city’s bluegrass heritage are not the ones who wind up on arena stages. The city’s not programmed that way, even if it should be. But Dierks made some savvy choices, soaking up sound and wisdom on Tuesday night bluegrass shows and on Wednesday nights on Lower Broadway with the twanging, electrifying Jamie Hartford Band. In those same days, his day job at The Nashville Network’s tape vault gave him access to a library of classic country music performances, which he soaked up like a sponge.
Under these many influences, he wrote and recorded songs that honored the past and the heritage while saying something fresh. Early songs like “I Wish It Would Break” and “Bartenders, Barstools and Barmaids” suggested this was a writer/artist who could add something to the country tradition while speaking a contemporary language. That promise was fulfilled upon teaming up with Capitol with the shocking No. 1 debut “What Was I Thinkin’?” It continued with indelible hits, including “Settle For A Slowdown” and “Every Mile A Memory.”
The tone for Dierks’s career was truly set in 2005. He won the CMA’s Horizon Award for most exceptional emerging artist. And his passion for and stewardship of classic country music earned him membership in the Grand Ole Opry, where he was the third youngest artist ever to be inducted. The first Grammy Award nominations came in 2007 and they quickly became routine. Through the critically acclaimed Up On The Ridge album, he’s earned ten Grammy nods. And throughout, Dierks has pursued a broad-based strategy on the road, juggling arena dates supporting George Strait with club and college shows and now balancing headliner status in country music settings with gritty, jammy tours of rock venues.
“I walk a different path,” Dierks says. “Because of my love of acoustic music, I have opportunities to do different musical things. It’s not just one type of show, which I really think would be a lot easier!” Reflecting on a career that’s sent him from the bars of Lower Broadway to the top of country music, Dierks is a mix of amazement, gratitude and determination. “I don’t know what the next ten years holds but I think I’ve put myself in a position where I can satisfy all of the different things that I love about music.”
Throughout this journey (and critical to it), Dierks has sought out and made use of technologies that could help erase the distance between himself and his fans. The website that went up before the release of Home is perhaps the most audacious expression of that yet. The album’s cover is rendered as a mosaic of miniscule images farmed form Dierks’s nearly 200,000 Twitter followers. Drag over it, and the faces pop out in a magnifier. Click on any tile, and up pops what they’ve been saying – to Dierks and each other. It’s like a microcosm of everything Dierks has cultivated in his fan base: connectivity and immediacy.
He’s done things his own way, satisfied his own muses and done all he can do to bring all kinds of fans along with him. There’s every reason to think they’ll follow him Home too.
Gallatin TN | Country
Jesse Lester McReynolds (born July 9, 1929, in Coeburn, Virginia) is an American bluegrass musician. He is known for his innovative crosspicking and split-string styles of mandolin playing, and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1964. He is a multiple Grammy nominee and award winner and one-half of the famed Jim & Jesse bluegrass duo.
Loretta Lynn "Lorrie" Morgan (born on June 27, 1959 in Nashville, Tennessee) is an American country music singer. The daughter of singer George Morgan, she made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry at age thirteen, performing Marie Osmond's "Paper Roses." Her father died when she was sixteen. When her father died in 1975, she took over his band and began leading the group through various club gigs.
Rhinestoned says it all.
No other word, real or invented for the occasion, sums up as well where Pam Tillis stands now. She is, after all, a superstar as well as a survivor. A child of Music City royalty and a former rebel, she was determined to find her own way as a singer and songwriter — and she succeeded. A CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, she has written songs for some of the top singers in and... beyond Nashville, including more than a few of her own hits.
She knows what it's like to break the platinum barrier, to top the singles charts time and again, to bask in an ovation at her induction as a member of the Opry or play in the intimate hush of the Bluebird Café. She has bathed in the lights of Broadway, posed for glamour magazine spreads, sung ballads in Bay Area bistros, batted wicked one-liners back to Tom Bergeron on Hollywood Squares, even made cameos in movies.
But no matter where she wandered, Pam Tillis never lost her connection to country music — even when country began to lose touch with itself. Trends came and went, and though she rolled easily with the tides and drew something from every new twist, she was aware that changes come with a cost, even as the business side of country flourished.
Her response was to insist on writing and cutting songs that spoke from the soul, rather than the boardrooms and focus groups of the country music industry. The results have been records that emanate an almost painful beauty, as did her 2002 release, the critically acclaimed It's All Relative (a tribute to her father, the great Mel Tillis).
"What I'm doing is country — but not necessarily the kind that you hear on the airwaves these days," Tillis explains, one drizzly afternoon over coffee, not far from Music Row. "Now, I admire a lot of this music; after all, I've sung rock, pop, R&B, and jazz, so I'm hardly a purist. But what I'm hearing now sounds often more like pop than country to me. And I just seriously felt called by that old different drummer to something a little bit more like the country I remember from my formative years, the country music of my youth." It's also something Tillis' fans and friends clamor for as she encounters them out on the road.
With It's All Relative, which she affectionately calls "the Dad album," Tillis produced one of the most memorable discs to have come out of Nashville in years, largely because of her refusal to conform to expectations. Combing through her father's catalog, she chose songs that had an especially timeless quality, with built-in resistance to the whims of the market. It was a bold statement; more than that, it set the stage for the even more assertive statement that Rhinestoned would make.
"Pam had reached a point where doing a record every year or two wasn't as important as taking the time to make something that had more meaning," says Matt Spicher, who co-produced Rhinestoned with Tillis and Gary Nicholson. "So she decided to embrace the momentum she had established with the Dad record."
"That was the first record I ever made where I wasn't concerned about having to come up with three singles," Pam points out.
"The labels understood that from the beginning," Matt says.
"They said they did," she clarifies.
And that's one reason why Rhinestoned marks the first album to be released on Stellar Cat, Pam's own imprint. With total creative control, she let her heart lead the way toward material that she could perform honestly and emotionally. "This is an A&R-free zone," she says, smiling. "But it is, first of all, real country. It's a bookend to the Dad album, except it has all new songs. It's like a bridge between the present and the past."
Nashville, Tennessee is a nexus - a point where tradition and innovation intersect, where commerce collides with art. It may be the only town around where salaried songwriters and full-time session musicians are as common as accountants and schoolteachers. Music is the product, and the factories line the street, from the swank Music Row mini-high-rises to the low-slung Sylvain Park bungalows. And only Nashville could give birth to a band like the SteelDrivers: a group of seasoned veterans - each distinguished in his or her own right, each valued in the town's commercial community - who are seizing an opportunity to follow their hearts to their souls' reward. In doing so, they are braiding their bluegrass roots with new threads of their own design, bringing together country, soul, and other contemporary influences to create an unapologetic hybrid that is old as the hills but fresh as the morning dew. This is new music with the old feeling. SteelDrivers fan Vince Gill describes the band's fusion as simply "an incredible combination."
The SteelDrivers' brand of bluegrass - intense, dark, poetic, and inescapably human - is a refreshing reminder of the timeless power of stringband music, and is captured perfectly on The SteelDrivers. Produced by Nashville ace Luke Wooten, The SteelDrivers was recorded mostly live on the studio floor, vocals and all. Its songs grapple with classic themes of regret, love, and redemption, from the escalating prison lament of "Midnight Train to Memphis" to the chilling murderer's plea encapsulated in "If It Hadn't Been for Love." "East Kentucky Home" is a timeless traditional bluegrass lament, with its strains of homesickness, loss, and abandonment, but ingeniously reinvented with off-kilter rhythmic accents and a decidedly contemporary chord progression.
The willingness to set aside the unspoken rules that ruthlessly govern bluegrass set the SteelDrivers apart from the innumerable faceless acts vying for the bluegrass spotlight.
Cool and confident, yet warm and approachable with a laugh that’s as melodic as the songs she sings, it’s difficult to look at Maggie Rose and not think that she was born under a very special star. And maybe she was. How else can you explain her journey from Potomac, Maryland—hardly a mecca for country music—to Nashville by way of storied record executive Tommy Mottola (Celine Dion, Mariah Carey)?
Mottola wasn’t a friend, or even a family friend. More like a friend of a friend of a friend. But Maggie’s biggest supporter and business partner, Tom Natelli, who had encouraged and nurtured the young songbird’s talent early on, had the chutzpah to ask around until he found someone who knew someone, who knew someone, who lived next door to Tommy. The music executive was impressed enough to encourage Maggie to pursue her music, but since country wasn’t his forte, he equipped the aspiring star with a handful of contacts and enough information to make her way to Nashville. It didn’t take any persuading though. Singing was her dream. She stepped away from Clemson University, where she performed with a Bruce Springsteen cover band, and into her career with encouragement of her parents and Natelli.
Tommy may have knocked on doors, specifically producer James Stroud’s (Willie Nelson, Chris Young, Tim McGraw), but Maggie kicked them down all by herself. And despite the connection to Mottola and the rock cover band experience, she kicked them down country style. Country by choice.
Maggie explains that in her home, she was exposed to an array of musical offerings: “My mom loved certain artists and I think the people she actually played are clearly influences of mine. She loved Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman. She loved the Beatles, which everyone loves the Beatles, but their sense of melody is so strong. And I loved Dixie Chicks. There was a really good mix of music. The fact that I gravitated toward country when there were so many other options shows that’s where I belong. Because it’s not like that’s all I was exposed to, that’s what I wanted to listen to.”
Why? The singer-songwriter smiles and simply says, “You can hear the story.” It’s that mindset and a healthy dose of diligence that kept Maggie in Nashville since the age of 19. Starry-eyed and a bit naïve, her first run at commercial success positioned her as a voice to be heard and gave her a foothold in Music City, but the songs weren’t quite what she needed. Even she admits, “I just wasn’t ready. I think that was the only difference between then and now is that I’m just ready. In fact, I’m chomping at the bit to get this album out. And before, I wasn’t excited about what I had to share yet. I was excited about being able to sing and do what I love, but I wasn’t totally connected to a body of work. I had singles here and there, but that doesn’t make an artist. I wanted to do something that people could latch on to, and I wanted to start a conversation with my music that people could be a part of.”
With iconic country music producers Blake Chancey and James Stroud at the helm, Maggie starts the conversation on Cut To Impress by writing almost half of the songs on the album. The remaining cuts are tunes that she has been performing for the past five years—songs that not only survived her evolution from the young girl, Margaret, to the young woman, Maggie, but became part of her musical make-up.
And they are KILLER tracks. Killer. Yes, there’s a body count on this album. From the flirtatious “Fall Madly In Love With You,” to the musical mini-movie “Looking Back Now,” Maggie shows she has a bit of a dark side, but she doesn’t dwell on it because she has sass, too. From the opening swampy, gospel-tinted track, “Preacher’s Daughter,” to the debut single, “I Ain’t Your Mama,” she reveals a delightful blend of feminine attitude that will empower her female fans and bring the boys to their knees with desire.
It isn’t all serious though. Humor is a tricky maneuver for any recording artist, but in the tongue-in-cheek “Hollywood,” Maggie is guaranteed to capture a grin, giggle or guffaw with clever lyrics like, “Tiny dogs in little bitty purses, cosmos everybody nurses, they get as trashed as we do…”
But give the girl a chance to wail, like she does in “Put Yourself in My Blues,” or the beseeching second single, “Better,” and that’s when you realize what she’s had all along. That’s when you see what brought her to Nashville. Songwriting can be learned, but to be able to convey a heartbreak, to sing a tear, that is a gift. And Maggie’s voice can soar without overpowering the listener. She’s not singing at you, she’s singing to you. She’s making that connection that she so desperately wants to make.
Maggie is committed to this career. Much like her very successful contemporaries, there was never a Plan B. “It even scares me to think about it,” she shudders. “I was lucky and crazy enough to make the move at a pretty young age, so before any serious decision making had to be done—is it this or this?” Even with the disappointments that face any new artist—promises broken, faith rattled, hopes shattered, dreams dashed—Maggie persevered. And she sees now where her experiences hold the promise of longevity. “If I’ve learned this much in five years, 20 years down the road, I’m going to be dangerous. So, I think that music will always be part of my life.”
It’s Maggie’s turn now. Meticulously choosing her album title from a song she co-penned, “Mostly Bad," is the best representation of where the ingénue is at both musically and emotionally. “That one is a really playful, fun song. ’Cut to impress’ is a line from the second verse and it jumped out to me because it represents so much about this album. It’s a really confident statement about all the album cuts—play on words. But it’s also that I’ve finally cut out a place for myself as an artist that is unique and real.”
A little good, a little bad, a lot confident and very much intentional. That’s her word. Maggie says, “That has been my keyword for this whole process, ’intentional.’ I think that everything I do as an artist now should be with a purpose. I think that the way I write should be with intent behind it. It can serve different purposes, but make sure that every word written is intentional.”
Titusville PA | Country
Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, country music legend Jeannie Seely has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, as a duet partner and as a songwriter. Her deeply moving vocals earned her the nickname of "Miss Country Soul".
Jeannie’s recording of "Don’t Touch Me" not only topped the charts, but also earned her a Grammy Award for the "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female". It is ranked at No. 97 in the book "Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles" published by the Country Music Foundation, and also included in "The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs".
Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a farm outside of nearby Townville, Jeannie was singing on Meadville radio station WMGW at age 11, and by 16 was performing on TV station WICU in Erie. When she moved to Nashville upon the encouragement of friend Dottie West, Jeannie only had $50 and a Ford Falcon to her name, but within a month Porter Wagoner hired her as the female singer for his road and television series.
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, it makes sense that I would want to write and sing Country Music. I grew up listening to the legends and because of their influence, I have the rare opportunity of making music for a living. If I owe Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Dwight Yoakam for kicking off these dreams, then I also owe a lot of people who are helping me follow them. Things are really exciting these days and they are just getting started. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and check out the music. There's much more to come and I hope you'll come along for the ride!